"When the Southern Baptist Convention met Tuesday, it elected its first African American president, Fred Luter Jr., a former street preacher and current pastor of a church in New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward."
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"Luter's election marks a watershed moment for the SBC. The organization was founded in a split over slavery before the Civil War and for decades was a largely segregated, all-white denomination..."
"...the election of Luter will not be, at least primarily, about fixing the sins of the past. Rather, it will be about the future of an organization that has seen declining membership for five straight years. The denomination--the largest Protestant body in the United States--will need to seek new growth from urban centers and minority groups, or at the very least, maintain its size by helping struggling churches find ways to stay afloat. "I think they thought racial diversity would happen," Ed Stetzer, the president of the SBC's research organization, told the Associated Press. "Now they realize they have to make it happen," he said."
"Luter's experience can help with all three of those needs. His church, Franklin Avenue Baptist Church, is an inner-city black congregation--still somewhat of a rarity in the SBC, which counts a minority membership of 20 percent--and is thriving. Before Hurricane Katrina severely damaged the church, it reached a high of 7,000 members, making it one of the largest churches in the state. Just 50 or 60 of its members remained, while the rest fled New Orleans, but Luter worked to rebuild the congregation, sharing another church until construction was complete in 2008. The congregation has swelled again to some 5,000 members."